Archive for November, 2008

in performance: al green

the rev. al green. photo by christian lantry.

the rev. al green. photo by christian lantry.

 “I love you, Al.” It became a familiar between-song audience cry as the Rev. Al Green got down to business at an earthy and wildly involving soul sermon last night at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville.

Like any good preacher, Green knew how to handle a congregation. When the proclamations of love poured forth before a fervently soulful I’m Still in Love With You erupted, Green answered honestly and succinctly. “Yes, but I love you more.”

Perhaps he did. Certainly no one could have predicted the sort of devout but youthful vigor Green, 62, displayed during his 80 minute show or how robust his voice – and more importantly, his intent – remained after nearly 40 years of singing on and off the pulpit.

During 1974’s Let’s Get Married, the most unexpected entry in the repertoire, Green cocked a leg in the air, arched his frame slightly backward and strutted to the groove like a man possessed. For the title tune to his 2008 Lay It Down album, Green hit a cruising altitude between tenor and falsetto that summoned a perfect vintage soul storm. And during the show closing Love and Happiness, Green navigated above a dense fabric of keyboard-driven funk that sounded less like a sleek soul revue and more like Talking Heads in its progressive, early ‘80s heyday.

There may have a bit of a tug of war between the spiritual and secular worlds that hold so much sway in Green’s music. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, for instance, was a profession of faith he recorded in the late ‘80s. It sounded effortlessly vital last night, especially considering Green used it as a preface for a reading of Amazing Grace where he remained at bay from the microphone in order to play choir director for an audience sing-a-long.

But Green’s vintage soul hits were the true spectacles of testimony. “There are people wondering if Al Green has still got it,” the singer shouted near the end of his 1971 breakathrough hit Tired of Being Alone. With that, he raised his head to the heavens and let his ageless falsetto ring like a siren. As outward as the song seemed, Green’s hit cover of the Bee Gees’ How Do You Mend a Broken Heart was all internalized, pressure cooker-level urgency. And when the Rev. Green unleashed Let’s Stay Together with a 20 megaton smile, the near-capacity crowd lit up like a Christmas tree.

There was a sense of theatricality to this performance, as in the art of tossing of roses to female fans throughout the concert. There was also a little trial-and-error underscored by the fact Green continually addressed the Danville audience as Lexington. Mostly, though, the show revolved around a sense of boundless cheer and grace, not to mention a voice that has lost not of its persuasiveness with the passing years.

In short, Rev. Al proved last night that he still knows how to command a flock.

critic’s pick 46

sonny rollins: road shows, vol. 1

sonny rollins: road shows, vol. 1

Saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins and bassist William Parker were born a generation and perhaps even a jazz lifetime apart.

Rollins remains the weary perfectionist, a product of bop tutledge who, at age 78, continues his life long search for the perfect – or, least the most befitting – tenor sax tone he can summon.

Like Rollins, Parker hails from New York. A frequent collaborator with two free jazz greats (David S. Ware and Peter Brotzmann), the bassist has been equally at home working in orchestra sized ensembles, dance projects and smaller combos. There is also a pronounced West African influence in his music. As such, Parker, 56, has developed into one of the bravest jazz journeyman and instrumentalists of recent decades.

On two new and seemingly polarized albums, each adheres to their strengths even as they modestly and briefly muscle into each other’s stylistic turf.

Rollins’ Road Shows, Vol. 1 is a compendium of concert recordings cut over 27 years in seven cities around the globe. Such scrapbook style assembly is unorthodox in most jazz contexts. Yet there is astonishing consistency within the music. With few exceptions, Road Shows sounds like it could have chronicled a single performance.

The commonalities can be traced, to a degree, to the personnel. Guitarist Bobby Broom and trombonist Clifton Anderson are present on over two decades worth of the Road Shows recordings. But it’s the manner in which Rollins interacts with both, especially Anderson (the only other horn player on the album) that is most telling. In their company, for better or worse, Rollins’ playing is tempered. His tone is warm, but still assertive. When a brief, boppish outburst settles into More Than You Know, two tenor sax ages of Rollins’ performance life converge. His playing initially is rustic and a little dangerous in a way that recalls his fabled ‘50s records. But when the band enters, the sound of today’s Rollins – skilled, lyrical but sometimes cautious – enters. The tone simply glows.

But the finale is the real treat – a reading of Some Enchanted Evening from the famed 2007 Carnegie Hall performance Rollins presented with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes. There is still a playfulness to Rollins’ soloing, but McBride seriously nudges Rollins on with sly, rubbery and powerfully soulful support.

william parker: petit oiseau

william parker: petit oiseau

Now, switch to Malachi’s Mode, a merry requiem for the late bassist Malachi Favors on Parker’s sublime Petit Oiseau. You hear what might just be his closest recorded approximation to Rollins’ music. While trumpeter Lewis Barnes is a vital presence that helps shape the tune’s sunny stride, Parker uses longtime percussionist pal Hamid Drake and a sweet alto sax solo from Rob Brown to design profound yet subtle swing. The communication is just as flexible as what Rollins attains on Some Enchanted Evening.

Petit Oiseau was recorded a mere six months after Double Bass over Neptune, a large scale band and vocal piece that debuted at New York’s Vision Festival. That’s a braver work, though a more difficult listen. Petit Oiseau, with its quartet intimacy and muscular bass foundation, is more welcoming. As is the case with Rollins’ newer music, it might be viewed as a touch safe by longstanding fans. But for ears owing less allegiance to the past, Petit Oiseau is a joyous listen by an underappreciated jazz giant.

rev. al lays it down

the rev. al green. photo by christian lantry.

the rev. al green. photo by christian lantry.

“Man, I wish the Derby was going on while I was there,” said the Rev. Al Green of his impending Kentucky performance. “We could go out and put some money on those horses. But seeing as I’m a preacher, I’d have to keep my bets to two dollars and fifty cents.”

Following such a modest proclamation was a vocal trait almost as endearing and distinctive to Green as his singing: laughter. It came like a cloudburst – quick, explosive and transforming. Almost without realizing it, you find yourself laughing with him.

“Hey man, when I sing For the Good Times (the Kris Kristofferson song Green refashioned into a soul hit in 1981), it means ‘for the good times.’ It don’t mean for the bad times. It means we’re going make the most of our time together. We’re going to make it work. We gotta make it work, because it’s getting pretty late in the game, baby.”

One can’t help but think Rev. Al has his next Sunday sermon in mind when he talks like that. After all, the veteran soul singer with the killer falsetto has also been an ordained minister in his adopted hometown of Memphis for over 30 years.

But “late in game” seems to also reflect the secular side of Green’s life and music. Two days before our conversation, he was winding up a European tour in support of Lay It Down. The recording is the third in a series of critically lauded albums for the Blue Note label that have set Green back on the path of the earthy, upbeat soul he explored during the early ‘70s. The hits Green fashioned back then with producer Willie Mitchell – Let’s Stay Together, Tired of Being Alone, Love and Happiness, I’m Still In Love With You, Here I Am (Come and Take Me) and many others – came to define one of the final golden eras of American soul music.

“Every house we played over there was rocking,” Green said of the European tour. “But this music is my life, man. I’ve been doing it ever since I came to Memphis and met Willie Mitchell in ’70 or ’71. We’re gonna do what we do wherever we go.”

Curiously, Lay It Down is the only one of the three Blue Note albums (2003’s I Can’t Stop and 2005’s Everything’s OK were the others) that did not have Mitchell at the helm. Instead, Green co-produced Lay It Down with Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson of The Roots. He also enlisted such new generation soul stars as John Legend, Corinne Bailey Rae and Anthony Hamilton.

While it summons more of Green’s ‘70s muse than the other Blue Note projects, the songs on Lay It Down were hardly pre-meditated. In fact, he wrote the bulk of the album’s material with Thompson and several collaborators after recording sessions had begun.

To set the scene, Green keeps his distance to offer a third person perspective of his work at the sessions.

“If you had a picture of Al at the recording sessions, he would be sitting on the floor. Everybody else would be around him – the organ player, the drummer, the bass player. They’re all in a circle around him.

“That first night we got together, we wrote eight songs. I was talking to Willie about that. He thought that was astounding. So I asked if he liked the album. He said, ‘Of course, I like it. My only problem is I didn’t get to produce it.’ But he wished me well, hugged me and said, ‘Hey man, a fine album.'”

What Lay It Down shares with the preceding Blue Note records is Green’s boundless vocal exuberance. At 62, the gleam and fire of his falsetto and the sheer jubilance of his phrasing haven’t diminished.  The singer admits he takes care of himself, walks 3 ½ miles every morning and again, “at a very brisk pace,” in the evening.

“I’m still striving to be the best,” Green said. “The girl singers in our band say, ‘What are you trying to do when you’re out there onstage singing that hard?’ I say, ‘I’m trying to perfect something.’ And they’ll go, “Perfect something? This music was perfected when you cut it.'”

With that, the laughter pours out again like a waterfall. “I guess my music is like an oil painting. I just try to touch it up – a little blue here, maybe a little red or white. I just want to perfect it so when I’m done with it, I can say, ‘Now I can sign my name at the bottom of it and present it.’ That’s it.”

When asked if he had a favorite song among those paintings, Green momentarily fell silent before using audience reception on his recent North American and European tours as a gauge.

“Whether it’s overseas or in America, it’s going to be Let’s Stay Together. On that one, everyone stands, everyone sings and everyone dances. And then Al comes out and throws flowers and roses everywhere (reviews of Green’s recent shows attest to the latter). It’s just a song that makes everyone come together.”

Of course, when Al Green, soul superstar and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, isn’t touring the world, he remains Rev. Al to the members of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis. But while concert audiences and church congregations may approach his music with different forms of devotion, Green says spiritual and secular followings are more similar than either realize.

“Man, I find life similar,” Green said. “And I always will. If we look at ourselves, we will fine we have more in common than our differences. Take both groups and put them together and you have the answer because if you smile, the whole world is going to smile with you. But if you’re a cry baby, well you’ll just be crying by yourself.” 

Al Green performs at 8 p.m. Nov. 18 at Newlin Hall at the Norton Center for the Arts, Centre College in Danville. Tickets are $60, $70, $80. Call (877) 448-7469.

in performance: mates of state

kori gardner and jason himmel of mates of stae. photo by cracker farm.

kori gardner and jason hammel of mates of state. photo by crackerfarm.

“OK. This is gonna suck. Get ready.”

Such was the warning given by Mates of State keyboardist Kori Gardner last night at The Dame on a rainsoaked evening that coincided with a season opening University of Kentucky basketball loss. Spirits, on anyone’s part, weren’t terribly high.

Specifically, the response was to an audience request that the husband-and-wife indie pop duo take a unrehearsed stab at An Experiment. The tune was built not all that long ago (2003 to be exact) around Mates of State’s organ/drums matrix, a sound that took a back seat for much of last night’s 75 minute set in favor of the more modified Roland piano and Korg synthesizer colors that bleebed, gurgled and punctuated through the pop fare from the new Re-Arrange Us album.

Admittedly, the tune was a little rough around the rhythmic edges, but An Experiment proved to be anything but. For much of the performance, regardless of whether it operated with a modified version of the familiar Mates of Stare organ charge (on the elemental Proofs from 2000’s My Solo Project album) or a more pasteurized piano cool (during Get Better, a bittersweet take on Re-Arrange Us‘ sunny pop stride), the formula seldom shifted.

Drummer Jason Hammel designed steady, even static drum grooves that became percussive mantras for Gardner’s primitive keyboard colors. There were a few variances, like a cameo by the show-opening Brother Reade, which injected Goods (All in Your Head) with hearty hip-hop that bordered on beat poetry. A double dose of alternating pop hooks also cleverly collided during Fluke. Hammel even got a centerstage break from the drums to sing lead on a fairly lumbering cover of Jackson Browne’s These Days.

Mostly though, the duos’s rough but hearty harmonies and elemental melodies ran on with unwavering, almost mechanical exactness.


US Fed News Service, Including US State News May 12, 2010 LONDON, May 12 — The government of United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence issued the following news release:

The inaugural meeting of a National Security Council, which will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron today, Wednesday 12 May 2010.

The National Security Council (NSC) being established by the Prime Minister will oversee all aspects of Britain’s security and the council will also be reviewing the terrorist threat to the UK at its inaugural meeting this afternoon.

The Prime Minister has appointed Sir Peter Ricketts (Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) as his National Security Advisor, a new role based in the Cabinet Office.

Sir Peter will establish the new National Security Council structures, and co-ordinate and deliver the Government’s international security agenda.

The council will co-ordinate responses to the dangers the UK faces, integrating at the highest level the work of the Foreign, Defence, Home, Energy and International Development Departments, and all other arms of government contributing to national security.

The council will be chaired by the Prime Minister. Permanent members will be the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for International Development and the Security Minister. go to site national security council

Other Cabinet Ministers, including the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, will attend as required. The Chief of the Defence Staff, Heads of Intelligence Agencies and other senior officials will also attend as required.

the family that plays together

mates of state: kori gardner and jason hammel . photo by cracker farm.

mates of state: kori gardner and jason hammel . photo by cracker farm.

OK, let’s address the seemingly biggest shift in Mates of State’s music right off the bat.

Since its inception over a decade ago, the husband and wife duo of Jason Hammel and Kori Kardner constructed their luminously bright indie pop songs almost exclusively on drums and keyboards. And not just any keyboards, mind you – but a ‘70s organ with a huge, swelling and marvelously organic sound.

Hammel and Kardner wrote songs on it. They recorded with it. They dragged the thing out on the road. As the duo’s popularity grew, the organ became viewed as one of the most recognizable, distinctive and ultimately essential components of the Mates of State sound.

So why is it then that the instrument’s presence on the band’s new Re-Arrange Us album has been so severely downsized? The reason boils down to an ages-old artistic urge: the desire for change.

“We had been writing songs on that big, vintage organ for over four albums now,” Hammel said. “And we were like, ‘You know what? We’re getting kind of bored with this sound. Let’s use a bunch of other sounds and see of we can still maintain the energy of Mates of State.

“That was our biggest concern. Was the organ – or the lack of it, really – detrimental to that energy? Thankfully, we found out that it wasn’t.”

That explains why the first thing you hear as Re-Arrange Us comes to life isn’t organ, but a gentle, solitary hammering of piano. But when Gardner’s soothing vocals and the equally evocative pop melody of the album’s lead-off tune, Get Better, kick in, you realize what really rules Mates of State’s sunny, though sometimes bittersweet sound: vocals and truckloads of alert pop hooks.

In short, the real change on Re-Arrange Us isn’t in the band’s overall sound, but in the choice of tools employed to create it.

“We found out it was the vocals that really explained what we are,” Hammel said.

And the pop sensibility within the band’s music? Hammel confessed that evolved over time and a few fairly unexpected influences.

“You would be surprised. I listened to a lot of metal when I was in junior high. Then I got into skateboarding, so I got into skate punk. When I got into college, I started listening more to college indie rock. Once I got out, that’s when I started to get into the more classic music by Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Nick Cave. Right now, I’d say they are my biggest influences. But at an early age, it was metal and punk rock.”

Another highly unexpected inspiration that played a major role in the evolution of Mates of State’s music was Ira Glass, host and producer of public radio’s This American Life. When Glass mounted a touring production of the show in 2007, he invited Hammel and Gardner along. But instead of organ, Gardner found herself playing piano.

“We really felt a sense of accomplishment as a band being able to play alongside Ira and the calibre of his writers,” Hammel said.

“We were playing big, sit down, 3,000 seat capacity theatres in cities like Boston, New York, Seattle and Chicago. For the shows, we played maybe five or six songs, just piano and drums. That kind of gave us the impetus to start mixing up our own tours a little bit. We could still have tours where it would just be straight up rock with the two of us. But there could also be tours where there might be various configurations of instruments to portray our sound in ways that would be different and fun.

An example of the latter came when Mates of State toured over the summer. For newer songs off of Re-Arrange Us, the duo became a quartet with the addition of brothers Anton and Lewis Patzner, the cellist and violinist from the California “string metal” band Judgement Day. When Hammel and Gardner play tonight at The Dame, multi-instrumentalist (and Mates of State tour manager) Chris Cosgrove will sit in for roughly half of the performance.

Truth to tell, Hammel and Gardner have two permanent additions to their touring entourages that most audiences never get to see – their daughters Magnolia and June. It seems the family that plays together does indeed stay together.

“We definitely have an untraditional lifestyle,” Hammel said. “But it’s not that odd or strange, really. We are able to do what we love and still have a family. That’s not to say we don’t go through a lot of the same tribulations of anyone else who works, is an artist or has a family.

“It’s really the only way we can make things work. If Kori and I were in different bands, it would be very difficult. I know we wouldn’t want to be away from each other for the amount of time it would take to properly work with those bands. So we feel fortunate. We feel satisfied. But we’re never complacent. We want more.”

Mates of State and Brother Reade perform at 8 tonight at The Dame, 367 East Main. Tickets are $10 advance and $12 at the door. Call (859) 231-7263.

Home Depot, Federal Government Strike Deal.

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News June 18, 2003 By Tony Wilbert, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News Jun. 18–Home Depot gained a big customer on Tuesday that it once said was too hard to handle. in our site home depot promotion code

The Atlanta-based retailer won a U.S. government contract that opens a pipeline to the $5 billion the government spends each year on maintenance, repair and operations.

The General Services Administration deal, effective July 1, establishes procedures and costs for purchases of Home Depot products for use by federal agencies. Home Depot subsidiary Maintenance Warehouse has had its own contract with the GSA for the past four years.

But the newest Home Depot contract allows federal agencies to conduct regular “walk-in/walk-out business” at the chain’s 1,407 stores in the United States, said Jim Stoddart, president of Home Depot Supply, its contractor-supply division.

“It’s a great growth opportunity for us,” Stoddart said. He would not disclose the projected impact on same-store sales.

The announcement comes a year after Home Depot created a national stir when it sent memos to store managers reminding them that they should not accept purchase orders, credit cards or cash for items to be used by the federal government. Home Depot said in mid-June 2002 that being a federal contractor would create considerable paperwork that it was not equipped to process.

Ten days later, Home Depot changed its policy and said it was willing to become a federal contractor. That decision opened the door for Tuesday’s announcement.

The agreement, however, comes with some strings.

As a federal contractor, Home Depot will have to file certain affirmative-action reports and disclose details about the hiring and pay of women and minorities.

Home Depot spent the past year preparing to do business with the government and establishing procedures to comply with federal guidelines, said Bob Nardelli, chairman, chief executive and president of Home Depot.

“The Home Depot takes compliance very seriously,” Nardelli said.

The contract with Home Depot sets terms and conditions for federal agencies to buy home improvement products, without having to engage in a bidding process. The government will receive pre-negotiated reduced prices. go to site home depot promotion code

Home Depot’s main rival, Lowe’s, does not have a contract with the GSA, though it welcomes business from the federal government and its contractors, spokeswoman Chris Ahearn said.

To meet the needs of the federal government, Home Depot has established the Home Depot Government Solutions Group, part of which will be based in Washington.

The group will work directly with federal agencies, and an outside sales team will handle the needs of agencies and military posts and bases across the country, Home Depot said.

News of the contract didn’t impress investors. Home Depot stock closed Tuesday at $34.44, down 2 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.


in performance: soweto gospel choir

guitarist kevin williams with the soweto gospel choir. photo by oliver neubert.

guitarist kevin williams with the soweto gospel choir. photo by oliver neubert.

There was no denying the simple, emotive pageantry executed by the Soweto Gospel Choir last night during a program where world music met global spiritual expression at Danville’s Norton Center for the Arts.

At the onset of Jesu Ngowethu, a lone tenor voice ushered in two rows of singers from opposite sides of the stage. A pair of percussionists supplied the tune’s only accompaniment. Still, the force of the gathering 24 vocalists singing in Zulu sounded keenly orchestral.

Roughly a third of the concert had choir members playing electric guitar, keyboards, bass and a conventional drum kit. But such modern accompaniment tended to give the music a standardized pop feel. Similarly, some of the contemporary songs of unity, as in the brief pass at Bob Marley’s One Love offered as an interlude in the otherwise arresting Zulu meditation Avulekile Amasango, muted some of the traditional township edge in the choir’s singing.

But the performance’s most moving moments were also its simplest, as in the gorgeous traditional African hymn Tshepa Thapelo (sung in Sotho) and a novel Amazing Grace (sung in English, but with all kinds of arresting township harmonies).

A blend of global gospel and West Coast soul on Oh, Happy Day finally put the Norton Center crowd on its feet near evening’s end. The cultures summoning the spirits at this point seemed purposely undefined, but the jubilance in the resulting testimony couldn’t have been more unified or obvious.

mitch mitchell, 1947-2008

mitch mitchell in 2007. photo by kieran doherty/reuters.

mitch mitchell in 2007. photo by kieran doherty/reuters.

When the touring tribute ensemble Experience Hendrix dug into The Wind Cries Mary two weeks ago at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville, all eyes were on the star performers.

Singing lead was young guitar buck Jonny Lang. Shredding another set of strings was Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford. Behind the third of three drum kits was Chris Layton, the beat-keeper for Steve Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble band.

Sitting behind the second kit, almost innocuously, was Mitch Mitchell. On the surface, he didn’t seem to be adding much. Mitchell tended to roam about the stage that night, sitting in when a particular song suited him with a rhythm that was, to say the least, casual.

But Mitchell possessed something essential to an A-list concert tribute to the great Jimi Hendrix. He was living history. Specifically, he was the last surviving member of the guitarist’s seminal late ‘60s trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. That he didn’t even attempt to recreate in Louisville the fire he, Hendrix and bassist Noel Redding summoned on three groundbreaking studio albums – 1967’s Are You Experienced? and Axis: Bold as Love and 1968’s Electric Ladyland  – was almost beside the point. He was the living link to the man himself. Until yesterday.

With Experience Hendrix’s 18 city tour complete, Mitchell was found dead yesterday in a Portland, Oregon hotel room. The only official reason being given so far is “natural causes.” He was 62.

the jimi hendrix experience in 1967: mitch mitchell, jimi hendrix, noel redding.

the jimi hendrix experience in 1967: mitch mitchell, jimi hendrix, noel redding.

While no one upstaged Hendrix in his heyday, Mitchell often shadowed him beautifully. He was there when the Experience’s music – a stormy, psychedelic and blues drenched circus – invaded American shores after having conquered England in 1967. Check out the extraordinary concert collection Live at Monterey (which was re-issued last year), the two-disc BBC Sessions (compiled and issued in 1998) or even the familiar studio debut Are You Experienced? for optimal insight into the very rockish road Mitchell navigated with Hendrix.

On Electric Ladyland, the last album by the original Experience, the changes were advancing rapidly upon the guitarist’s music. Mitchell never missed a beat once they arrived. The pop rumble of Crosstown Traffic, the blues strain of Voodoo Chile (the first of Ladyland‘s two versions), the Traffic-like psychedelic abandon of Burning of the Midnight Lamp, the loose-fitting swing of Rainy Day, Dream Away and the darkly majestic re-make of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower – this was, collectively, Hendrix’s best work. Throughout it all, Mitchell was the anchor as Hendrix’s guitarwork scaled the heavens.

Finally, there was the second Experience band with Billy Cox (who also performed with Experience Hendrix) replacing Redding. The music became more elemental. The groove became earthier. There were also touches of jazz, especially in the music captured on the flawed but still vital Blue Wild Angel, a 2002 set that chronicled Hendrix’s set at the Isle of Wight Festival shortly before his death in 1970.

Had Hendrix lived to further explore the R&B and jazz elements forecasted on Blue Wild Angel, Mitchell would have likely been an eager and industrious co-pilot.

My favorite Hendrix/Mitchell moment: a 1969 blues jam version of Villanova Junction from a limited edition 2004 CD of the same name. It is a glorious 27 minute instrumental jam with the guitarist and drummer conversing, constructing and merrily locking horns.

At the end of the Experience Hendrix concert in Louisville, Mitchell took the microphone as the ensemble gathered for a final bow and bid the crowd good night in a broken British dialect that recalled Keith Richards. An electric smile beamed across his face.

And why not? His greatest music was being celebrated right alongside the career triumphs of Hendrix. In short, another generation had experienced the Experience.

soweto soul

the soweto gospel choir performs tonight in danville.

the soweto gospel choir performs tonight in danville.

As he speaks from his hotel room in Vancouver, British Columbia, Kevin Williams is half-a-world away from home. But as a three year member of the Soweto Gospel Choir, he has become a versed global traveler.

In short, Williams carries home with him. As one of the Grammy-winning choir’s 27 touring vocalists, he brings his faith, voice and message of hope wherever he travels.

“As individuals, you can find yourself by yourself,” said the native of Durban, South Africa. “You could be in your hotel room, where you often look at pictures and think of home. But as a choir, we are family. When we’re together, we’re home. When we’re onstage, we know our family members are around us. It takes our mind off the distance of home and the measure of love we’re missing. But we receive that same measure within the choir.”

In just over six years, the Soweto Gospel Choir and become one of the most visible world music enterprises to emerge out of post-Apartheid South Africa. Formed as a self-described “super choir” by musical director David Mulovhedzi, the choir gathered singers predominantly in their late teens and twenties from Soweto and Johannesburg.

“Growing up in South Africa, we knew, as did our parents’ and our parents’ parents, that one of the main ways of communication was through music,” Williams said. “That music speaks through many tongues in many different ways. But the songs always make you feel loved. They make you feel good about yourself. It has really made a difference in our lives, especially the spiritual side of the music.”

Language is seldom a barrier for the choir, Williams said, as the population of South Africa speaks 11 officially recognized languages. Within the choir itself, several members speak four or more languages. Some are fluent in as many as eight. On the choir’s new concert CD/DVD Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre, songs are predominantly sung in zulu and sotho, although introductions and explanations are provided in English.

Then there is the repertoire. Much of the music is a capella. Some is augmented by percussion. Other tunes enhance the singing with surprisingly Americanized rhythm sections. Similarly, mixed in with the predominantly traditional African music are established American hymns (Amazing Grace) and even pop songs with strongly spiritual casts, such as Bob Marley’s One Love and Bob Dylan’s I’ll Remember You.

“It’s the meaning and the motives behind these songs that inspire us,” Williams said. “One of the songs on the album is called World in Union. We see that as a plan. As a group from South Africa, we one day hope for a universe of people standing as one.”

For now, though, a number of high profile fans are standing with the Soweto Gospel Choir’s message of faith and unity. Some are cultural heroes, including former South African president Nelson Mandela. Last summer, the choir performed as part of an all-star concert honoring Mandela’s 90th birthday (other invitees included Annie Lennox, Quincy Jones and Sidney Poitier). Others are non-African artists that have helped introduce the world to world music. Leading that list is Peter Gabriel, who collaborated with the choir on Down to Earth, the closing credits tune from last summer’s Disney/Pixar robot flick Wall-E.

“He was one of the guys who really motivated us while we worked with him,” Williams said of Gabriel. “We’ve been really touched by his songs and just by his presence alone.”

But Williams stressed that the choir’s spiritual fervency is expressed generously in any company, be it the Canadian crowd the group performed for recently, the Kentucky audience that will be waiting at Danville’s Norton Center for the Arts tonight or the South African communities that will greet Williams and his mates when the choir’s sense of home finally returns home.

“We are the Soweto Gospel Choir,” he said. “The name alone should tell you we sing gospel music. In everything we do, we put God first. So everybody in Kentucky should look forward to a blessed time with us. Come to expect, come to receive, come to accept a different sound and a different style of music.”

Soweto Gospel Choir performs at 8 p.m. tonight at the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville. Tickets ate $40, $45 and $50. Call (877) 448-7469.

critic's pick 45

harold budd & clive wright: a song for lost blossoms

harold budd & clive wright: a song for lost blossoms

While wading through Pensive Aphrodite, the hypnotic 32-minute opening suite on A Song for Lost Blossoms, keyboardist and ambient music pioneer Harold Budd along with guitarist Clive Wright (of Cock Robin, the band responsible for the neglected mid ‘80s pop hit, When Your Heart is Weak) unexpectedly peel back the years.

Within Pensive Aphrodite, Budd’s keyboards set up attractive orchestrations that move in ultra-slow motion, just as they have on his albums for the past three decades. Wright’s guitar colors don’t serve as a foil or even a conversation piece. They instead drift in and out the keyboard maze to modestly intensify the mood. In other words, Wright is a welcome visitor to Budd’s ambient plateau – but a visitor, nonetheless.

That we even have this collaboration is something of a wonder. Budd announced his retirement four years ago. So the release of A Song for Lost Blossoms comes as something of a surprise even if the music it contains is often indistinguishable from Budd’s other atmospheric recordings.

fripp & eno: no pussyfooting

fripp & eno: no pussyfooting

But another reference point surfaces when listening to Lost Blossoms. The way Wright’s guitar seems to almost subvert the recording’s meditative stance brings to mind one of the great blueprint albums in progressive instrumental music: 1973’s No Pussyfooting by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. And, what a coincidence, that record and its 1975 followup, Evening Star, have been beautifully remastered and reissued this fall.

One could argue there are links to the revolutionary classicism of John Cage or even the early electronic adventures of Tangerine Dream in No Pussyfooting. But Fripp and Eno – the former then in the thick of his most adventurous ‘70s music with King Crimson while the latter had split from Roxy Music to begin a musical voyage that would team him with Budd in the early ‘80s – mostly design their own template of sound with drone like effects, primitive tape loops and harmony that remains otherworldly to this day.

The opening passage of No Pussyfooting‘s The Heavenly Music Corporation, in fact, sounds less like electronic music and more like an elongated chant where guitar, keyboards and tape effects blur. It’s not until the unmistakable tone of Fripp’s guitarwork enters in layers that you get much feel for which instrumentalist is doing what.

Wright’s guitar doesn’t play against anything nearly so confrontational on Lost Blossoms. One of No Pussyfooting‘s most arresting traits, after all, remains its sense of dynamics. The ebb and flow of its music is still breathtaking. But the way Wright services and reacts to Budd’s more contemplative backdrops is similar.

Those who have enjoyed No Pussyfooting for years will find big fun in the reissue’s bounteous bonus material. It reconstructs the entire album in reverse (the effect is only slightly less startling than the original recording) and all of Heavenly Music in a half speed exercise where guitar glacially embellishes the music over 41 minutes.

fripp & eno: evening star

fripp & eno: evening star

There is no such tinkering on the remastered Evening Star, a perhaps less daring but far more approachable work where the compositional links to Budd’s music are stronger. Within the contours of Evensong, Wind on Wind and Evening Star‘s title track, is a serene but substantial aural fabric that still serves as a proud forefather to the ambient-minded generations that came in the music’s gloriously understated wake.

Corona losing its golden glow; With rivals multiplying, No. 1 import sees first sales decline in 16 years.(News)

Advertising Age March 24, 2008 | Mullman, Jeremy Byline: JEREMY MULLMAN Corona has long been miles away from the ordinary-and the competition. But for the first time in 16 years, the seemingly unstoppable Mexican import is seeing sales decline. And while the brand’s executives chalked up the erosion to a price increase, analysts and the ever-expanding list of challengers storming Corona’s beaches aren’t so sure. Wall Street analysts and some of the brand’s rivals point to a frothing head of new or reinvigorated brands that appeal to traditional Mexican import drinkers-including Dos Equis, Miller Chill, the forthcoming Bud Light Lime and even Corona’s resurgent sibling Modelo Especial-as creating a more difficult competitive environment than the No. 1 import previously has faced. see here jimmy buffett tour 2011

“We’re getting growth from them,” said Eduardo Casas, director-Mexican brands at Heineken USA, which markets Corona rivals Dos Equis and Tecate. “There is no question we’re affecting their business.” Executives at Crown Imports, which markets the laid-back brand in the U.S., seem unperturbed. “There have been dozens of brands introduced by many competitors who have unsuccessfully tried to emulate the success of Corona,” said a spokesman, “and we don’t see why these attempts would be different.” One executive at the brand’s longtime ad agency, Cramer-Krasselt, laughed when asked if the brand would alter its long-held “vacation in a bottle” strategy-best known for endless variations of beer drinkers enjoying a Corona on a beach.

And, in fact, planned ads for Corona and Corona Light don’t veer much, if at all, from the sun-and-sand-soaked standards it’s been running since 1993. One, called “Treasure Map,” starts with an aerial view of a beach with an “X” on it that’s ultimately revealed to be an umbrella under which two drinkers are enjoying Coronas. A print execution shows two bottles side by side in front of a rocky beach: In one, a lime labeled “Snorkel” bobs near the neck of the bottle; in the other, the lime is fully submerged and labeled “Scuba.” “It’s that relaxed, unadorned simplicity inherent in Corona’s personality that separates it not only from its direct competitors in the beverage-alcohol industry but also from any other consumer product on the market today,” said Timm Amundson, VP-marketing for Corona.

The agency executive dismissed the new competitors as the latest in a long line of Tequiza-like beverages that have failed to dent Corona. But Tequiza and other past challengers to Corona were not as well-funded as the current crop, which has collectively spent more than $100 million. Miller launched its lime-and salt-flavored Miller Chill last year, spending $25 million on a national media campaign and perhaps twice that much this year, an amount that would almost equal the $53 million Corona spent on its base brand last year.

While Miller Chill’s flavor profile differs from that of Corona-even one with a lime shoved in the bottle neck-there’s little question its Spanglish-tinged ad campaign lured some Corona drinkers away. Miller’s internal research found that 15% of the brand’s volume otherwise would have gone to Corona, according to two people who’ve seen the numbers.

Not to be outdone, Anheuser-Busch this year is launching Bud Light Lime-on Corona stronghold holiday Cinco de Mayo, no less-with a $35 million marketing budget that will compete directly with Chill and indirectly with Corona.

A-B last year also launched Landshark Lager, a niche brand that swiped Corona’s longtime Jimmy Buffett tour sponsorship and nosed its way into Mr. Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant chain. This year, Corona is moving on to sponsor Kenny Chesney’s concert tour . site jimmy buffett tour 2011

Older Mexican brews are also ramping up spending and picking up share. On the high end, Dos Equis last year launched its largest campaign, dropping $8.5 million on measured media, about 50% more than it spent the year before, while on the low end, its sibling Tecate targeted Mexican immigrants with a $16.8 million measured-media outlay, a 10% hike over the year before. Tecate also introduced a light version last year.

Some of Corona’s struggles can also be attributed to an economy that has been unusually rough on its key markets-such as Southern California-and may wind up tightening the budgets of higher-end drinkers who may be less willing to spring for more expensive beers.

“In the past, [mega-imports have] always bounced back,” said Beer Marketer’s Insights Editor Benj Steinman. “But the past isn’t always a prologue.” CAPTION(S):

Life’s a beach: The “Vacation in a bottle” pitch isn’t likely to go away.

Mullman, Jeremy

the happy blues

Lil' Ed Williams

Lil’ Ed Williams

He describes his music has “the happy blues.” Just slip on any of his records from the last 18 years, and you will hear how effortlessly Lil’ Ed Williams lives up to the claim.

On Hold That Train, the leadoff track from Full Tilt, the most recent Alligator record by Lil’ Ed and  the Blues Imperials, Williams summons the groove of Elmore James, the electric fire of Howlin Wolf and a chunky rhythmic fire that recalls Creedence Clearwater Revival. The slide-savvy guitar fire may have been passed down from his acclaimed Chicago bluesman uncle, J.B. Hutto. But the volume and spirit just as readily suggest the final albums the late Roy Buchanan cut for Alligator in the ‘80s. Finally, there’s the voice – a husky, full-throated device that sounds like a youthful version of yet another Alligator giant, the late Son Seals.

But whip all these elements together and Williams’ own jubilant style takes over. Tonight, you get to hear the sound in full live fashion with a performance at the new G. Busy Blues Room.

Full Tilt‘s other highlights include a cover Smokey Robinson’s First I Look at the Purse that owes far more to the J. Geils Band’s  early ‘70s roadhouse revision of the song than to the days of vintage Motown. Similarly, the album-ending cover of Hound Day Taylor’s Take Five has to be one of the merriest farewell anthems cut in or out of the blues world.

G. Busy introduced itself a few weeks back with a concert by modern blues guitar fave Ronnie Baker Brooks. Let’s hope tonight’s outing by Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials marks a regular return of national blues artists to Lexington.

Lil’ Ed and the Blue Imperials perform at 7 p.m. tonight at the G. Busy Blues Room, 1474 Anniston Drive. Tickets are $12. Call (859) 299-7710.

Stroll Achieves New Revenue Milestones in 2011.

Marketing Weekly News April 14, 2012 Stroll, the next-generation education e-commerce platform and marketer of The Pimsleur Approach language learning programs, announced revenue growth for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011.

For the year, Stroll revenues were $40 million, up 135 percent from $17 million in 2010. This continues Stroll’s track record of exponential revenue growth: since its inception in 2002, Stroll has grown revenues at a compounded annual growth rate of over 70 percent. in our site pimsleur approach review

Dan Roitman, founder and CEO of Stroll, says, “It is exciting that in a tough economic environment, Stroll continues to post eye-popping revenue growth. Clearly, our customers want to improve themselves by learning new languages with The Pimsleur Approach. But it’s more than just having a great product to sell: we are fanatical about deploying advanced analytics to measure effectiveness of our marketing spend, and then optimizing every single marketing dollar to deliver maximum results. It’s working, as evidenced by our expectations for another year of significant growth in 2012.” Stroll is staffing up to meet expected demand and has made over 30 hires in 2012 with a total employee base of 160 in Philadelphia.

Mr. Roitman continued, “Our goal is to be a billion-dollar-plus company by 2020, and to do that we need a strong team up and down the lineup, as well as additional consumer-focused businesses to which we can apply our marketing know-how and expertise. We believe we can be to the educational market what Amazon is to retail.” About Stroll Stroll is a next generation education e-commerce platform company headquartered in Philadelphia. Stroll deploys sophisticated marketing analytics and an advanced e-commerce platform to drive triple-digit growth for the products it owns or licenses. The company’s flagship product, The Pimsleur Approach, is one of the leading audio-based language learning systems, second in the U.S. market to Rosetta Stone. The company has increased its revenue at a compounded annual growth rate of 73% since 2002 and revenue growth in 2011, alone, was 135%. By 2020, Stroll aims to exceed $1 billion in revenue through organic and inorganic growth. in our site pimsleur approach review

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